“The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers,” by Maxwell King

A LITTLE KINDNESS MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives
of those you meet; how important you can be to the people
you may never even dream of.”

-Fred Rogers

Discussion Questions:

1). What is your first memory of Mister Rogers? Did you watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood growing up? Why do you think you still remember that from your childhood?

2). Many viewers of Mr. Rogers regarded him as the epitome of middle-class bourgeois habits. Were you surprised to learn that Rogers grew up rich in a mansion with a cook and a chauffeur?

3). Author King maintains that the bullying and loneliness Rogers (“Fat Freddy”) experienced underpinned his sensitivity to kids’ feelings and his own self-doubt (he consulted a psychiatrist for most of his adult life). Why does this bullying (which admittedly did not seem pervasive) seem to be an asset to Rogers where for most it seems to be a debilitating factor?

Mr. Rogers and Daniel Stripped Tiger

4). Some criticize the book for being “boring” and repetitive with many tangents that don’t necessarily concern Mr. Rogers or his legacy. What did you think of the author’s writing style?

King Friday the 13th

5). Rogers’ show discussed themes as divorce, death of a loved one or pet, childhood disability, and interracial relationships at a time when these topics were not discussed on television in any capacity. In that and many other ways he show was innovative and ahead of its time. What about Rogers gave him this unique insight? Why has his show and image endured?

6). In reading the book, it may have occurred to some how different Mr. Rogers is from others in leadership roles. Everyone seems to love him but then vote for and support very different people. Why does the public turn away from values that everyone seems to otherwise revere? Was Mr. Rogers dramatizing a world that was already, at that moment, slipping away?

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

-Fred Rogers

The Best Argument for Saving Public Television was Made by Mr. Rogers in 1969

Lawyers and other public presenters study this speech because, among other positive aspects, it expertly interweaves moral foundations theory

For more information on moral foundations, see: https://moralfoundations.org/

A Slightly Different Take on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood:

About the Author:

Maxwell King is the CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation and the former director of the Fred Rogers Center. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.

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